How to be authentic AND use Instagram simultaneously ~ with Tiger Darrow

Tiger Darrow doesn’t like to be called an influencer, which is why, naturally, we call her an influencer throughout our phone interview. It is tirelessly amusing to see her squirm and utter a small but defiant “nooooo”, every time we start a question as, “so as an influencer what do you think about….”

“But you are an influencer!” we exclaim after the umpteenth time of her protesting this status.

“Well, the first thing that got sent to me for free, based on my social media, I was like – so this is what life on the other side is like.”

When you get free stuff sent to you, we think it is safe to say you’re unequivocally an influencer. (Stop squirming as you read this Tiger.)

Tiger Darrow, originally from Texas, is a Brooklyn-based cellist, producer, songwriter and artist. To start the conversation on authenticity and social media use, we ask Tiger about her initial foray into the world of Instagram. She mentions her initial reluctance to join new social media platforms, but when her boyfriend joined, she was eventually convinced. 

“So then I finally downloaded it, took a bunch of moody pictures of foliage and the things that I was eating and was like, okay – I don’t fully understand it, but fine”, she answers rolling her eyes in a mock-teenager exasperated state. Well, moody pictures of foliage was definitely the ‘it’ content for a while, but when did Tiger make the switch from a Pinterest vibe into using it as a proper tool as an artist? Tiger explains that she was asked to be part of a YouTube musical where she was cast as Snow White – the video instantly went viral and Tiger found herself suddenly in the company of numerous digital strangers: ““Now it’s not just my 800 people that I know, now it’s like four thousand people who I’ve never met who are within this age range and…they’re listening and they’re watching, so I need to have something to say…I think that’s around when I switched gears from ‘This is a fun little moment for me to share what my pancakes looked like today’ to ‘Oh shit, this is a promotional tool that I really need to take seriously.’”

After deciding to take the app seriously, how did she deal with the pressure?

“It’s really tough because you are constantly watching other people’s successes. And even if it’s not one person having success after success, and you’re like ‘Oh my gosh I wish I had that person’s life’, depending on how many people you follow, everyone is posting about the positive aspects of their lives”.

“There is never a break,” we agree with her.

“Exactly,” she responds. “You see everything in bulk, you see all the positives in bulk and you go ‘Oh shit, I haven’t done that, I haven’t accomplished that.’”

So, in a sea of perfectly articulated and curated success stories, how does one not fall into the trap of presenting a one-sided, inauthentic version of oneself as an artist? Tiger admits that she is grateful to not be a 16-year old on social media, as there is so much pressure on teenage girls from digital voices on what to wear/not wear.

“I don’t have that kind of pressure put on me, so if I do whatever I want to do, people are just going to have to be there to expect that I’m going to be naked with a bag of Cheetos in my hand for a picture.” (Side note: if you haven’t seen these photos, check them out – they are great). So one conclusion to draw is: social media authenticity is about escaping pressure and expectations. What’s another conclusion?

We speak about authenticity as encompassing the fullness of your existence, or in Tiger’s words, “a combination between make-up and being a troll”. What does offering a ‘troll’ version of herself give to her audience?

“When I work, when I’m sitting down to a production for somebody or a string arrangement or whatever, I don’t sit and like, tweeze my brows and like, wing my eyes, and put on lipstick. I sit down, usually with a hoodie and sweatpants and I sit there for, you know, eight hours and I don’t shower, and I probably don’t eat unless it’s chips and salsa and that’s the reality and that’s what people can expect when they hire me for things.”

Whether it’s lingerie or oversized t-shirts, make-up or fresh-faced, Cheetos dust on your fingers or…less Cheetos dust on your fingers, Tiger has a simple conclusion:

“Your girl does both.”

And so can you!

Has it always been like this? We asked her about a time she felt she was inauthentic on Instagram.

“I did make Ronnie take a bunch of pictures of me in a satin robe with Cheetos dust on my fingers in LA once and there was a moment in that, I think it was when I was contemplating whether or not I should glue lashes on at 11:45PM, I think that’s when I was like – what am I doing? Like, nobody needs this picture, no one asked for this”.

As I’m laughing at this story, the Ronnie-in-question (Tiger’s boyfriend and a fellow musician and producer) politely knocks on the door and quietly shuffles in, placing a glass in front of Tiger and then shuffles back out. She informs us he has brought her a fresh watermelon, mint, strawberry and lime juice. She takes a sip and then exclaims, “Oh shit, it’s a banger”.

We ignore our stomach pangs and ask her a question on behalf of all the Tonemillers who are artists and are still not convinced. Where should an artist begin if Instagram feels as unnatural as wearing masks in public (it’s not pleasant BUT YOU HAVE TO). 

Tiger breaks it down for us. Firstly, consistency. “Start becoming aware of how much you are posting and what you are posting.”

But I don’t want to post selfies all the time, we hear our Tonemillers ask. Tiger offers a solution:

“I would urge you to find what the baseline is….to look within yourself to figure out what the key things are that are you, that are consistent through everything. Everybody is multifaceted and complex in so many different ways, but I would have to imagine that in all the things that everyone does, they’ve got two or three things that are consistent throughout  – and they can be superficial or they could be incredibly deep…I like the color pink, that’s a thing that’s consistent about everything that I do – my hair is pink, I painted my room pink, so when I think about posting something online I’m like, okay so what’s going to be a familiar thing to consumers? Maybe if I can find a way to incorporate this color…or if it’s an article of clothing you love or whatever.”

Okay, Tonemillers – pick your three things. Now what? Tiger goes on:

“When you start introducing it and when you start introducing little elements like that to your fanbase regularly, then out in the real world they’ll see something aesthetically that subconsciously reminds them of you and you know, maybe they’ll open Spotify while they’re walking to get their coffee and listen to your music on the way because they saw something that reminded them of you.” (And we could all use that extra 0.0005 cent from that one stream, now couldn’t we?)

All this effort of trying, not trying, finstas and instas, follower ratios can sometimes feel overwhelming. So, what makes Instagram worth the effort? Tiger reminds us that it can bridge connections between people that otherwise would have been impossible due to physical distance or even something like social anxiety.

“As somebody who gets quite anxious to talk to people in real life, and has a bit of apprehension towards social functions and stuff, I’m like social media because it lets me interact and engage with people on my terms.”

We’re here to build a community and connect with each other after all. And COVID-19 has shown us the importance of securing a digital community as well as an in-person community.

So on that note, connect with us and connect with Tiger here!

We’re here to build a community of musicians together.

And that’s an authentic promise. 

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